Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal Winners, Broken Down By Style

The Great American Beer Festival had to go digital this year. Previous iterations of the event were attended by thousands of people from across the American craft beer industry to celebrate American craft beer. It was, traditionally, a big, buzzed convention. Clearly, that wasn’t happening in 2020.

Even with in-person festivities being postponed, GABF (as it’s commonly known) still soldiered on — announcing the best American beers and best American craft breweries over the weekend. There were 91 beer categories in play this year, with over 8,000 entries. That’s 91 distinct beer styles that received “gold,” “silver,” and “bronze” awards this year. Even mid-pandemic, the festival is nothing if not expansive.

We’re not going over all 91 GABF categories (you can review full results at your own leisure here). Instead, we went through and pulled the top ten most represented beer styles — basically, the most popular beer styles based on how many entries there were in each style’s category. That means the ten beers below represent the beer categories with the most entries, with the gold medal winner getting a shout out.

One huge caveat here, most of these beers are hyper-local (it’s a craft festival after all) and sometimes only available seasonably. You might be able to find a few of these outside their local areas. Most of them, you probably won’t. Still, today isn’t the day for celebrating ubiquity. Check out these brews and rest easy knowing that if you’re in the region of one of these award-winning craft breweries, you’ll be able to enjoy some truly exemplary beer.

Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer (154 Entries) — Amburana Dream

Denver Beer Co. Instagram

Brewery: Denver Beer Co. – Olde Town Arvada, Arvada, CO
ABV: 9%

The Beer:

This beer is a bit of an enigma. It’s been winning awards for years now and the brewery still doesn’t bother to mention it on its own webpage (besides a press release saying it won an award once). We guess if you’re in Denver and visit the brewery, ask about it?

The judges at GABF definitely seem to think it’s a winner.

Tasting Notes (from RateBeer):

“Bomber poured a clear dark reddish-brown with a small lasting brown head. Aromas of bitter chocolate, cinnamon, light roastiness, and light woody notes. Palate was medium-bodied and smooth with a dry finish. Flavors of bitter chocolate, cinnamon, light roastiness and light woody notes with a smooth dry lingering cinnamon chocolate finish.”

American-Style Pale Ale (156 Entries) — Featherweight Pale Ale

Canonball Creek Brewing

Brewery: Cannonball Creek Brewing Co., Golden, CO
ABV: 5.5%

The Beer:

This is a year-round offering from Cannonball Creek out in Golden, Colorado. So you can actually try this one if you happen to be in the area. The beer looks tasty enough but Cannonball Creek also doesn’t offer any details besides that they sell the stuff on tap for $6 for a full pour.

Tasting Notes (from RateBeer):

“Draft at the brewery. Saving the best for last, I hope? Darkish golden pour, small soapy head. Mild hoppy aroma. Taste also favors the hops but lets the malts shine through. Mild for an APA, but highly drinkable.”

German-Style Kölsch (162 Entries) — Kölsch

pFriem Family Brewers Instagram

Brewery: pFriem Family Brewers, Hood River, OR

The Beer:

pFriem Family Brewers out in Oregon are masters at taking old-school European styles and giving them a Pacific Northwest feel. Their Kölsch uses Weyermann Pilsner, Rahr Red Wheat, and Acidulated Malt with Tettnang Tettnanger and Hallertau Perle hops.

The German belly of this beast is strong but leans into a much fruitier nature than a hoppy or malty one.

Tasting Notes (from the brewer):

“Brilliant light straw color topped with bright white foam. Crisp aromas of fresh pear, wildflowers, and green apple. Gentle flavors of ripening fruit, biscuit, and light grain. Alluring finish, light, dry, sparkly, and quaffable.”

Imperial India Pale Ale (166 Entries) — Hammerland DIPA

El Segundo Brewing Company

Brewery: El Segundo Brewing Co., El Segundo, CA
ABV: 8.6%

The Beer:

This year-round offering from El Segundo Brewing is another local favorite that you may be able to find at some specialty shops. It’s a double IPA, so the hops are paramount to this bottle of beer. They use Mosaic, Simcoe, Chinook, and Centennial hops — a very classic American IPA mix from the West Coast.

Tasting Notes (from the brewer):

“Bright, Dank, Colossal…exactly what you expect with a hop bill of Mosaic and Simcoe. Get your nose in the glass and the aromatics will overwhelm you like the double-overhead closeouts down at Hammerland.”

Fruited American-Style Sour Ale (180 Entries) — Guava Dreams

Del Cielo Brewing Co.

Brewery: Del Cielo Brewing Co., Martinez, CA
ABV: 4.5%

The Beer:

A funky sour spiked with Colombian guava does sounds very thirst-quenching. Though this one definitely has more of a summer vibe. This brew gets an extra shoutout since you can actually order it online for delivery pretty much nationwide!

Tasting Notes (from the brewer):

“Inspired by the unique flavor of pink guava, ubiquitous in Cali, Colombia. Get lost in the middle of sensory experience, welcomed by the fresh guava aroma, followed by an explosion of tropical flavors and balanced sour notes.”

Juicy or Hazy Imperial India Pale Ale (192 Entries) — The Hopsplainer

Burke-Gilman Brewing Co.

Brewery: Burke-Gilman Brewing Co., Seattle, WA

The Beer:

This is another tiny craft brewery that has little-to-no information about their award-winning beer, even on the brewer’s own webpage, social media, etc. Again, the judges at GABF seemed to love the hoppy beers from this brewery this year and awarded them two gold medals in the hop-heavy categories.

Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the Seattle area.

Tasting Notes (from RateBeer):

“On tap at the brewery. Very hazy blonde yellow with head and lace. Lovely aroma and flavors of flavorful malts and hops. Smooth, fairly bold, and tasty.”

Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout (199 Entries) — A Night to End All Dawns

Kane Brewing Instagram

Brewery: Kane Brewing Co., Ocean, NJ
ABV: 12.2%

The Beer:

This special barrel-aged beer spends some time in bourbon and rye barrels (some releases spend time in maple syrup barrels too). It’s also pretty much impossible to find unless you’re lurking in the secondary or even tertiary beer markets. Still, this beer will continue to age well in the bottle and you might see some popping up in the years to come. There will also surely be new releases each year, which you’ll need to go to New Jersey for.

Tasting Notes (from the brewer):

“This beer carries notes of vanilla and coconut from the initial barrel-aging and hints of caramel and undertones of toffee from the next round of maple syrup barrel-aging.”

German-Style Pilsener (200 Entries) — Sprockets

Gravel Brewing Co. Instagram

Brewery: Gravely Brewing Co., Louisville, KY
ABV: 5.6%

The Beer:

This beer from Gravely Brewing is a slow-pour German Pils. Beyond that, Gravely doesn’t really tell us much about the beer. The seven-minute-long pour off the tap was the main thrust of their marketing, so hopefully, the judges got that experience when they judged this one.

Tasting Notes (from the brewer):

“Hoppy lager packed full of German noble hops.”

American-Style India Pale Ale (355 Entries) — IPA

Perry Street Brewery Instagram

Brewery: Perry Street Brewing, Spokane, WA
ABV: 6.3%

The Beer:

This is yet another tiny, local brewery that you’re not going to get to try unless you’re in Spokane. As for the beer, the brewery doesn’t really mention it beyond that it’s on their menu right now.

Tasting Notes (from the brewer):

“Lush and pungent with big pineapple notes.”

Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale (377 Entries) — Spellbinder

Wren House Brewing Company Instagram

Brewery: Wren House Brewing Co., Phoenix, AZ
ABV: 6.5%

The Beer:

Wren House does some big beers out in Phoenix that often get a lot of attention. Their Spellbinder is brewed with oats and locally grown white wheat. The brew is then hopped with Cascade hops before a Mosaic and Citra dry-hopping. The juicy hops become the star of the show as you can see from that hazy glass above.

Tasting Notes (from the brewer):

“Super bright aroma of tangerine peel marmalade, overripe strawberry, and pungent dank pineapple.”